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Observing the skies in the Middle East. Jordan research center project

Dobrawa Bies
15 of September '20

{Student} combining her two passions - astronomy and architecture - she designed a research center in Wadi Rum, Jordan focusing on sky observation. The work is a master's degree created at the Technical University of Lodz under the direction of Dr. Tomasz Krotowski.

The design of a research center in Wadi Rum, Jordan focusing on sky observation is an attempt to respond to the problem of design in a context where the beauty of the surrounding landscape prompts non-competitive solutions. The solution to the function of the research unit, which includes an astronomical observatory, laboratories, co-working spaces, residential units and a representative hotel area for visitors, relied heavily on subtraction, forcing the author to depart from previous thinking about architecture and redefine the notion of building form, function and elevation.

Schemat projektowy

the solid is hidden in the terrain

© Anna Jaruga-Rozdolska

According to Anna Jaruga-Rozdolska:

Astronomy and architecture are inextricably linked sciences. Ancient civilizations left buildings - artifacts, serving the observation of the night sky, indicating the early connections of these two fields. A feature of architecture serving astronomy remains monumentalism - determined by the pursuit of maximum precision, achieved by increasing the scale of survey instruments, followed by the scale of architecture. The challenge is to plan a large-scale facility in a setting where the undeniable beauty of the landscape stands in opposition to monumental forms. An attempt to solve the problem is to hide the object in the terrain - such an action is to some extent a reversal of standard thinking about architecture. The famous phrase uttered by L.Sullivan Form follows function is redefined and proclaims: substraction follows function. Until now, every design decision made on a two-dimensional plan had its consequences in three dimensions. Shaping an object whose mass is hidden in the terrain, is contained in underground floors that do not affect the perception of the object in space, allows both greater freedom and shows the limitations of habit and design routine.

Ośrodek badawczy,

Based on a simple composition, the projection is contrasted by two circles of domes inscribed in square halls

© Anna Jaruga-Rozdolska

sky observation in Jordan

The author chose the Wadi Rum valley for the site's location. The decision was influenced by favorable weather conditions, a long tradition of sky observation in the Middle East, and the beauty of the natural landscape. Climatic conditions allowing the use of high-efficiency solar power plants to reduce the unit's demand for electricity were also an important consideration. The sinking of the building into the terrain further reduces the energy requirements of the complex, thanks to naturally lower temperatures.

The architect planned theresearch center building as underground - the only above-ground elements are the domes hiding the telescopes. When designing the functional layout, the author was inspired by the way space stations work - where successive functional modules are connected to the main module that forms the core of communication. The irregular, free-form plan follows the designed function. The main entrance leads through a patio, leading to the reception hall. Office and administrative spaces and rooms of the residential unit light up the subsequent patios. Vertical and horizontal lines of escape ramps organize the massing. The composition of domes and recesses creates the fifth facade of the building visible from the windows of the hotel complex. When designing its shape, Anna Jaruga-Rozdolska wanted to make a super-subtle reference to the work of her favorite architects of the modernism era - F.L. Wright and Mies van der Rohe.

Ośrodek badawczy
w Jordanii

The only foreign elements in the landscape are the domes of the observatory

© Anna Jaruga-Rozdolska

Thelightness of the interiors is given by glazing that creates attractive multi-plans. Based on a simple composition, the projection is contrasted by two circles of domes inscribed in square halls. Inspired by the architecture of Petra, the designer sought to achieve an impression of coherence with the surrounding landscape. To this end, she used concrete dyed to a shade similar to the color of natural rocks as the main building material. Concrete was used in both the external elements of the building, i.e. facades, floors, stairs and ramps, as well as elements of small architecture. The only exception for technical reasons is the material of the elevation of the observatory's domes.

The project is in the finals of this year's edition of the Zbyszek Zawistowski "Diploma of the Year" Award, the results of which will be announced in October. In addition to this work, the following have been nominated for the award: Iga Ostrowska with a project for a community development in Praga Polnoc, Tomasz Kruszyński author of the work titled INVISIBLE SACRUM , and Adam Grudzień and Iga Jagodzinska with a project for a craftsman settlement in Kashubia.

compiled by: {tag:AuthorAiB}

illustrations courtesy of Anna Jaruga-Rozdolska

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